HISTORY OF BIODIESELS
The transesterification of vegetable oils dates back to the mid-1800’s where it was more likely used to distill out the glycerin which was used in the manufacturing of soap. Any source of complex fatty acids can be used to create biofuel and glycerin. Early manufacturers used oils derived from peanuts, hemp, corn and tallow whereas current sources come from soybeans, rapeseed, canola, corn, recycled fryer oil, forest wastes, sugar cane or by-products of slaughterhouses. (Yokayo Biofuels, 2006).
Two chemists, E. Duffy and J. Patrick, are credited with first experimenting with transesterification using vegetable oils to make soap in 1853, many years before the first diesel engine became functional. (Biodiesel Times, 2005). The resultant biofuel by-product was later named “biodiesel” after a motor engine inventor.
Rudolph Diesel, on August 10, 1893, first demonstrated the use of peanut oil to run his compression ignition engine. This date has since come to be known as International Biodiesel Day. (Wikipedia, 2007). He later won the Grand Prix (highest prize) for his innovation in 1897 at the World’s Exhibition Fair in Paris. He believed that biofuel was a viable alternative to the resource consuming steam engine. He was right, as vegetable oils continued to be used to power vehicles until the 1920’s. (Yokayo Biofuels, 2006).
Henry Ford was also a proponent of biomass fuels. He designed his 1908 Model T automobile so that it could be powered with ethanol, a common biofuel made from hemp or corn. (Yokayo Biofuels, 2006).
In the 1920’s, with the development of engines capable of utilizing a residue of the fossil fuel, petroleum, there began a rapidly growing trend away from using biofuels. The petroleum industry severely undercut biofuel sales so that the ideals promoted by Diesel and Ford went by the wayside. The American industrialists of the 1930’s such as William Randolph Hurst, the Rockefellers, and Andrew Mellon (then United States Secretary of Treasury), among others, all of whom had significant investments related to the petroleum industry, launched campaigns to discredit the use of hemp (i.e.; the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937) and thereby caused the demise of the biofuel industry. (Yokayo Biofuels, 2006)
With the scarcity of fossil fuels during the Second World War, biodiesel again came into popularity particularly among the military both in Germany and in the United States. After the war however, prosperity in the Unites brought about a desire for mass-produced vehicles and once again, the industries fueled by petroleum made it so that biodiesel became less popular. (Yokayo Biofuels, 2006).